Freeze of the century

Paul Sims – Daily Mail December 9, 2010

The army was called in last night as Britain headed towards its coldest December for 100 years.

As temperatures plunged to -18c (0f) David Cameron ordered the military to step in and help the UK’s beleaguered local councils.

The Prime Minister also revealed Cobra-style emergency meetings of senior officials and Ministers had been held to discuss the Government’s response to the big freeze.

His comments were made as reports of fuel running out at petrol stations came from Scotland and East Anglia.

In Scotland a third of the country’s 900 forecourts were closed due to supply chain problems.

After a further 4in of snow fell yesterday the Met Office warned that – despite a brief respite this weekend – temperatures would stay ‘remarkably’ low for another fortnight.

If that happens, this month could replace 1981 as the coldest December since records began in 1910.

To do so, the average mean temperature for the month will have to be lower than 0.2c.

As forecasters warned of more snow, sub-zero temperatures and ice for the Christmas period:

  • The Prime Minister urged homeowners to embrace the ‘we’re all in it together’ strategy of the Conservatives Big Society by being good neighbours.
  • More than 100 motorists were rescued after being trapped as heavy snow fell on the A171 near Whitby, in North Yorkshire.
  • The AA said it had responded to more than 230,000 incidents in just 14 days.

 

As soldiers were called in to help clear roads in Scotland the Prime Minister told the Commons: ‘We stand ready to give any assistance. We have ministerial meetings at effectively the Cobra level that are going through what action needs to be taken.

‘There is a bigger strategic supply of grit than there’s been in previous years.

‘The military stand ready to help and whatever needs to be done, I can guarantee you will be done.’

But he urged people to do their bit as well. ‘There’s also something that we can all do to help neighbours and people that could suffer in this cold weather by being good neighbours.’

Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, went further and urged homeowners with access to grit and salt to tackle those roads and pavements not treated by councils.

‘People have always dug their way out of their own driveways…and I would encourage people who are able to do that kind of thing to continue doing it for themselves and for neighbours who are perhaps less able to,’ he said.

Last winter, more than 25,000 people died in England and Wales as a result of the cold temperatures. Most of them were aged over 75.

Nigel Stafford, from the British Red Cross, said: ‘We all need to look out for each other during the severe weather and make sure those less able than ourselves are not forgotten.

The snow which crippled Scotland moved south yesterday leaving a further 4in across the Yorkshire Moors and parts of the east coast.

More than 100 vehicles were trapped on the A171 between Whitby and Scarborough when the snow fell on ice, making driving extremely hazardous.

Severe weather warnings remain in place across Scotland, Northern Ireland, Yorkshire and Humber and East Midlands as temperatures dropped to -18c (0f) at Shap Fell in Cumbria, -15c (5f) in Edinburgh and -10c (14f) in Manchester.

Met Office forecaster John Hammond said: ‘December has got off to a remarkable start. It’s possible it could be the coldest on record.

‘We will have to wait and see but it’s going to stay cold for much of the rest of the month with widespread risk of ice, frost and snow showers.’

He said that the country would enjoy warmer temperatures – as high as 7c (45f) or 8c (46f) – over the weekend before the freeze returns.

‘There is scope for more snow showers to come in, particularly next week,’ he added. ‘Widespread ice and frost will return, particularly from the middle of the week onwards.’

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